Jack Ford, left, talks with Joe McNamara, city council member and mayoral candidate, in front of the troubled Greenbelt Place Apartments on Wednesday.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
Former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford wants a new organization out there cleaning up Toledo's blighted neighborhoods, which he said the city “fathers” have forsaken for years.
Mr. Ford, who is running for an at-large Toledo City Council seat this year, said Wednesday that if elected, he would push to start a nonprofit organization to combat blight in the city.
He said Toledo needs a “Blight Authority,” a term Mr. Ford borrowed from an organization operating in Detroit. Such an authority could be added to the Lucas County Land Bank without a new bureaucracy, he said.
“It’s not really a new idea for Toledo. It’s very similar to the NIFTI program that we had some years ago that went defunct because it ran out of money,” Mr. Ford said, referring to Neighborhood Improvement Foundation of Toledo Inc., which was founded in 1957 by the late Wayne Snow as a grass-roots organization that worked to empower people in blighted areas to spruce up their neighborhoods.
Mr. Ford appeared with Councilman Joe McNamara, a mayoral candidate, at his side during a news conference outside the Greenbelt Place Apartments. Both are Democrats.
“If you go around, particularly in the older neighborhoods up here in North Toledo, you will find areas where there is severe, illegal dumping; where, even with the tear down of the homes through the land-bank programs, we still have, essentially, charred neighborhoods,” Mr. Ford said.
The proposed organization would be volunteer-driven and clean up neighborhoods, he said. The former mayor said he has asked Mr. McNamara to put together the group whether he wins election or not.
Mr. Ford said the city needs to be more proactive in dealing with deteriorating neighborhoods, rather than wait for homes to crumble and then raze them.
“When I first came to Toledo, we had a building supply bank, we had an urban homestead program, we did a lot more rehab. Now we just wait for homes to crumble, and we tear them, down and we need to change that,” he said.
Ms. Ford also said he has considered if it would be better to have the United Way of Greater Toledo oversee the combined federal Community Development Block Grant funding from the city and Lucas County. Toledo’s share this year was less than $8 million. Mr. Ford said he recalled when it was more like $30 million. “What we need to do is have more of a single voice,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. McNamara said he supports the idea. “The conditions at some of our housing complexes are unacceptable, and it’s incumbent on city leaders to say, ‘This is not how we want people in Toledo to live,’ ” Mr. McNamara said. “Having a blight authority and pooling resources is one way we can do a better job fighting blight.”
Mr. Ford said his plan requires setting set up a nonprofit organization to receive donations; focusing on specific neighborhoods; finding volunteers; inking cooperative written agreements between government and nonprofits; reviewing each area routinely; expanding the concept of blight to include pest infestation; empowering residents to fight for betterment, and reviving the city’s telephone hotline.
Mr. Ford said he chose the Greenbelt Place Apartments to announce his plan because of problems at the housing complex.
Greenbelt Place residents complained last year to federal officials about unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including bed bugs and cockroaches, at the 806 Cherry St. complex. They also cited missing fire extinguishers and accused management of demanding double payment of rent or deposits.
Mayor Mike Bell wrote U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) on July 16 asking him to support Advocates for Basic Legal Equality’s request to terminate the housing assistance program subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development at Greenbelt.